News |Salon Sophie Charlotte 2018: Is language a weapon?

Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences (BBAW) at the Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin | Photo: VATMH/Mirko Lux

BERLIN, January 22, 2018 | Last Saturday night the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences (BBAW) at the Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin gave room to the question borrowed by Kurt Tucholsky “Is language a weapon”. “One could be afraid of language and its effects”, stated Martin Grötschel, President of the Academy, in his welcoming address.

Herta Müller and Christoph Markschies in conversation | Photo: VATMH/Mirko Lux

Subsequently, the BBAW vice-president of Christoph Markschies and Nobel laureate Herta Müller talked about the power of language. But they first talked about the silence. Ideology bends speech, obscuring its horizon of meaning. In villages, where Müller grew up, on the other hand, the essence of language becomes visible, for there they were still untouched. She would have liked to be a seamstress or a hairdresser back then. To prdouce something without speaking: “What one does, does not have to be doubled in the word,” said Müller, because “with speaking one can do as much evil as good.” Even literary writing can be a form of this silence, “you only do it with yourself.”

Thomas Mann succeeded in becoming Goethe’s successor this night. At least speaking in terms of schedule, as after a spicy lecture on Goethe’s eroticism our guest Professort Andreas Blödorn spoke about Thomas Mann's use of irony. An abysmal, sometimes blatantly malicious, but in its fundamentals always friendly to life, humane irony is considered a striking stylistic device of the narrator Thomas Mann. Blödorn's glimpse on Mann's language showed how the ironic attitude to life and writing helped to both expose and reduce fractions in biography and work. Although it fulfills a different purpose in every single text, a connecting moment is that it makes it easier to endure life itself: “To float above things and smile down on them. Not condescending, but in an existential sense.”

Around 2300 guests were able to experience this year’s Salon Sophie Charlotte's diverse and inspiring program. Numerous additional podiums with more than 100 experts, scientists and artists dealt with the effects of language, change, species extinction and digitization.

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